City Focus: Philadelphia

By Josh Bishop

I love you, man!
We all know that Philadelphia is the City of Brotherly Love. More importantly, though, it’s the Cradle of Liberty, the Birthplace of America, or any of a number of nicknames that pay homage to the city’s central role in the founding of the United States. History runs through these streets like Revolutionary fervor. With some of the most important sites in American history — and plenty of opportunity for fun — Philadelphia is continually ranked among the top student destinations.

Give me liberty
There’s no better place to begin a historical introduction to Philadelphia than Independence Mall. Part of Independence National Historical Park, this place has it all: the Liberty Bell and its famous crack; Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed; and, a few blocks away, the National Constitution Center, where students can affix their signatures to the Constitution in Signers’ Hall. Don’t forget the nearby U.S. Mint. Consider a guided tour to take it all in.

The tell-tale house
When it comes to stories of the strange, the macabre, and the downright creepy, no one did it better than Edgar Allen Poe. The Edgar Allen Poe National Historical Site is the famous author’s only surviving residence in Philadelphia, and it’s a good thing, too: this is where Poe penned his short story, “The Black Cat.” Perhaps his inspiration came from the hair-raising basement. Students can get an intimate look at the life and work of America’s most distinctive author. Educational tours are available.

Cheesey does it
Nothing says “regional cuisine” quite like a Philly cheesesteak. Such delicacies are best bought straight from a roadside cart, wrapped in deli paper and dripping with juices. Don’t write this off as a glorified sandwich chain six-inch. No, the cheesesteak is something else altogether. In its purest form, the sandwich consists of sliced steak and melted cheese on a long roll. Add sautéed onions, mushrooms, green peppers, and sauces to make it your own. Polish it off with a water ice for dessert.

Think, think, think
With the incredible, unmissable Philadelphia Museum of Art (students must run up the steps and take their photo with the Rocky statue at the very least) just down the road, the Rodin Museum tends to get short shrift. Still, it’s worth a stop to see the largest collection of Auguste Rodin’s work outside of Paris. Students can see plaster studies, drawings, prints, letters, and bronze castings, including Rodin’s most famous work, The Thinker. Other castings include The Burghers of Calais and The Gates of Hell.

All-American pastime
While there are plenty of professional sports in Philadelphia — Eagles (NFL), Flyers (NHL, 76ers (NBA), and a new soccer team, the Union, in 2010 — there’s something patriotic about catching the American game in the Birthplace of America. Take the students to see the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Sure, in 2007 they became the first professional sports team to lose 10,000 games, but redemption was just around the corner when the Phillies won the 2008 World Series championship. Private ballpark tours and group tickets are available.

This article was published in the Fall 2009  issue of Student Group Tour magazine. To see the full archived magazine, click here. Click here to print a pdf.